October 11, 2022

Is it OK to modify the Five Tibetan Rites?

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Modifying The Five Tibetan Rites in response to individual needs will not affect the benefits you receive.

According to the instructions in the original 1939 book, The Eye of Revelation, it is acceptable to adapt the Rites according to your needs. 

Some people, acting on their own initiative, invent little aids for their practices. An old fellow in India found it impossible for him to perform Rite Number Four properly even once. He wouldn’t be satisfied with just getting his body off the floor; he was determined that it should reach a horizontal position as the Rite prescribed. So he got a box about ten inches high and two and a half feet long. Upon this, he put some bedding folded to the right size, and across this padded box he lay flat on his back. Then, with his feet on the floor at one end and his hands on the floor at the other, he found it quite simple to raise his body to a horizontal position.” Peter Kelder, The Eye of Revelation

The need for PERFECTION, or for complete adherence to every nuance of the limited descriptions on how to perform the Rites – is not mentioned at all.

Some people get very dogmatic about this, but the monks never mentioned the need for ‘perfect’ postures at all. Here’s what the author, Peter Kelder, had to say.

The body has seven centres, which, in English, could be called Vortexes. These are kind of magnetic centres. They revolve at great speed in the healthy body, but when slowed down – well that is just another name for old age, ill health and senility. The quickest way to regain health, youth, and vitality is to start these magnetic centres spinning again. There are but five practices that will do this. Any one of them will be helpful, but all five are required to get glowing results. These five exercises are really not exercises at all, in the physical culture sense. The Lamas think of them as ‘Rites,’ so instead of calling them exercises or practices, we too shall call them ‘Rites.

If these Rites are not intended to be physical fitness exercises (even though they are), then the focus, as far as the monks are concerned – is not on how well you perform the postures - but on the effect generated by the movements. This may explain the absence of clear, detailed instructions.

In The Eye of Revelation, Colonel Bradford, the lead character, is described as being In his late sixties, he looked every year his age. He was thin and stooped, and when he walked, leaned heavily on his cane." When he returned from the lamasery, Bradford was  a tall, straight, “ruddy complexioned man in the prime of life.”

Clearly, Bradford’s physical fitness was poor before he went to Tibet, which may explain why his instructions are so limited. For those with a fitness or yoga background, following these instructions is generally sufficient, but many others require additional instruction.   

Interestingly, only 10% of the population practice yoga in the USA, so the number of people needing adaptations due to previous injury, muscle weakness, lack of fitness, or the natural degeneration effects of aging is significant.  

With the benefit of modern exercise knowledge, some of the instructions are considered ‘unsafe’ as they cause compression of the vertebrae and discs. If practitioners do not know how to circumvent this, or push themselves too hard, this can lead to strain or injury. However, there are easy ways to avoid this by adjusting the movements slightly, increasing body-mind awareness, and avoiding compression.

The most important thing to remember is to avoid anything that hurts. Stop, assess and adjust your movements or do less. A certain amount of muscle soreness is normal initially, but never pain.

Remember, these are repetitive movements, so getting your technique correct from the beginning is essential. Follow the monks' suggestions by beginning with just three repetitions in your first week, adding only two per week until you are doing the required twenty-one in ten weeks’ time.

If you carry out the required 21 repetitions per posture every day for one whole year, you will have carried out 7665 repetitions of each posture – or 38,325 for all five Rites.

Remember, too, that many thousands, if not millions of people from 12 to 80+ years old, practice them worldwide with great benefits.

Here are some suggestions relating to Kelder’s instructions, which come from qualified health practitioners and my 22 years of teaching practice.

1. Now lean backward as far as possible; at the same time, the head should be lifted and thrown back as far as it will go.

  • Avoid throwing your head back as far as it will go, as this compresses the vertebrae and discs in your neck. Instead, it is best to keep your neck long and strong, with your core muscles activated to protect your lower back.
  • No human skeleton is identical: people’s bones vary in size, orientation, and proportion, and for some people bending the neck back too far can occlude (kink) the vertebral artery, reducing oxygen supply to the brain. So if you feel dizzy or faint, avoid dropping your head back so far and keep your neck long and strong.

2.  As the body is raised upward, allow the head gently to fall backward so that the head hangs backward as far as possible when the body is fully horizontal.

  • Avoid letting the “head hang backward as far as possible” to prevent compression of the cervical spine and vertebral artery. Instead, keep the neck long and strong.

3. The second position of this Rite is to lean backward as far as possible [which produces a significant arch in the lower back.]

  • The same situation as in 1 & 2 above also applies to the curve in the lower back, where many people experience back pain. So again, avoid compression, activate your core muscles, and keep your spine long and strong.

As in any new exercise program, you are advised to check with your doctor or qualified health practitioner if you have a history of neck, lower back, shoulder, or wrist pain; you would benefit from further instruction. Likewise, if you are unfit, overweight, or have never tried yoga-like exercises before, you are also recommended to seek further instruction.

Pendulum 5th Rite copyright www.T5T.com scaled

In the T5T program (short for The Five Tibetans), which I developed in teaching hundreds, now thousands, of students, these are the additions I have made. They improve your strength and fitness gradually with ease and safety and have been developed with the assistance of several qualified health practitioners.

  • A Series of Steps - to build strength and flexibility safely and gradually
  • Incorporating Core Stability - to activate the deepest muscles of the trunk that wrap around the spine like a natural weight belt – to protect and keep the spine stable
  • Focus on correct alignment from start to finish - to prevent the development of muscular imbalances
  • Avoid collapsing the lumbar or cervical spine - to protect the lower back and neck
  • Avoid using the momentum of the movement – to avoid straining or injuring the lower back or neck
  • Addition of Energy Breathing – for improved health and vitality as well as boost the effects of the Rites

You can either learn how to practice the Rites with core stability (and breathing) from my book or by following the same method learned in our workshops in my Online Training Course. Click images below for details. 


T5T Online Training Course - Workbook, Videos, Posters, eBook, Meditations.

Click links to Download

© This work is the intellectual property of its author and is fully copyrighted. It may not be copied or republished in any medium (including but not limited to electronic and print media) without the express permission of the author. All rights are reserved.

Carolinda Witt

Author of a number of books about The Five Tibetan Rites, including "The Illustrated Five Tibetan Rites," and her bestselling T5T Five Tibetans DVD. Carolinda has been practicing and teaching the Five Tibetan Rites for 23 years. She is one of the world's foremost experts on the Five Tibetans Rites, and has further developed the original teachings to create a safer, more in-depth method of learning the Five Tibetan Rites called T5T® (The Five Tibetans.) Adding natural full breathing and core stability to increase vitality, and strengthen the lower back and neck.

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  • I so appreciate your commentary on adjusting positions. Some of the rites I can do fully well, so do the recommended number, but others I cannot complete. For instance I can do 17-21 #1 just fine, but the #4 Table I can do only 5-6 ….I have learned to do the Table very slowly, as on occasion I got very nauseous. So, do I default to the lower # of repetitions to keep all rites at the same number? Please respond to my email. Thank you

    • Hi Solay. I didn’t see any email from you, so am responding to this comment here. It is interesting that you mention that the Tabletop makes you feel nauseous, but I wonder if it isn’t the Spin. Although you can do the number of repetitions OK physically, the vestibular system in the inner ear can take some time to adjust. I wonder if you cut back on the number of spins and then tried the Tabletop and see if that improves things.
      No, it doesn’t matter if you build up at a different rate to the others as you will catch up in time. The main thing the monks recommended was to do just 3 of each in your 1st week, then add 2 per week for every week after that. It will take you 10 weeks to do the full 21 this way. Most commonly, I see people wanting to get to 21 quickly and get dizziness, nausea, a sense of not being quite in their bodies, changes to sleep, scattered mind and more variable moods. These are generally a sign of too many, too quickly so try that as well. All the best, Carolinda

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